Thursday, December 15, 2016

Engaging the Power of E-Learning: In Search of a New Mandate

As we come to the end of 2016, it is important that we step back from the routines and priorities that we have listed and re-listed, and reflect upon the progress of E-Learning through the year. One of the things that we need to be careful of in taking such a step back is that we not spend too much time focusing on the changes in technology that have advanced during the year.

In the final analysis it is not about technology but it is about learning, the adaptability of human beings to changing digital environments that they find themselves immersed in and the exploration on how we can move learning to higher levels that capitalize on the great human potential for creativity, innovation, and the enrichment of the quality of life for all people through the means of effective education. In order to truly address this goal of human endeavor, we can not hide from the significant complex real world problems that as societies we have created for ourselves to our detriment. In our struggle to deal with such problems, the first reality that we need to face is that our previous routines and methods of dealing with such problems are not working and in some cases are exasperating the problems.

Taking the First Step: The Need for a Globally Unifying Vision for E-Learning

In order to make sense of the changes in E-Learning and technology that impacts our lives, we need to have a vision that is global in nature because we are no longer isolated societies in time. With the rise of the Internet with all its positive and negative attributes, we are all connected to each others lives no matter where we live on the planet. In this connection, we have doors of opportunity to learn about each others lives and relate to such lives as well as the power to impact and bring about change. The vision not only involves the social connections that we form but also connections on a moral level. For example, if we learn of someone living in great poverty, in an altruistic fashion we seek ways that we can instigate positive change in the person's quality of life. The use of crowd sourcing is but one way. However, if the problem is systemic and can be addressed through bringing more effective education into their lives then the change is more long term and benefits the generations that follow as well.

Taking the Next Step: The Need to Ask the Right Questions in Regards to Technology

As much as we have become enthralled with all the new technology that has emerged this year from the use of drones to the development of Virtual Reality, some questions that we need to think about are:

  1. Are all the examples of technology that are emerging useful for enriching E-Learning and capable of enabling us to expand the human potential for creativity, innovation and collaboration so that real solutions may be found to the very complex real world problems we face? 
  2. In the choice to use and teach technology application to new learners, do we have a moral obligation to also emphasize moral accountability in how technology is used. A case in point would be the drive to teach very young children and teens how to code. Do we have a moral or ethical obligation  to make sure that the message that users of technology have a moral obligation to use coding to help our societies in a life affirming manner, is clearly and repetitively emphasized?
  3. Are we prepared to make sure that technology is harnessed to its master, pedagogy and not the other way around? Although technology may inspire changes in pedagogy it does not control pedagogy in E-Learning. Technology is but one means to a greater end.
  4. Are we prepared to entrench and model the teaching of systems thinking, critical thinking and innovative thinking into learning organizations both in the corporate world and higher education world to prepare learners to become global agents of change to the betterment of their societies?

 Taking Yet Another Step: Defending the Need to Create Conditions to Develop Agents of Change
In order to bring about and manage effective change in learning both in business organizations and within education systems proper, we need to recognize the need to overcome institutional inertia that is prevalent in so many institutions. Unlike the often repeated concern that change could be too disruptive to the organization, "treading water" in a globally connected world is more dangerous to the health of organizations. Organizations raise too many defense mechanisms when asked to consider making effective change guided by a new vision. A favourite in dealing with innovative ideas is termed "paralysis by analysis" . An idea is studied ad infinitum and gets to the point where subsequent leadership forget why they are studying the idea and it gets shelved.
The greatest travesty in such scenarios is that those who have the greatest stake in advancing the health of the business organization, the front line stakeholders, become disengaged and reduce themselves to "just doing the job but not contributing anything". With students, they simply disengage with their education all together, judging it to be irrelevant to the real world.
You can probably think of many more reflections you could add but the crucial factor that will decide where E-Learning goes is the quickly moving factor of time.
Consider what lies ahead for E-Learning in 2017 and make it your mandate as a professional to make a real difference in the quality of life for the people in our globally connected societies and most importantly, get off the "hamster wheel" and spend quality time with those who you love, who inspire you and who re-energize you to want to make a difference.

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